As the Miami Herald reports, active shooter drills aren’t just something that’s happening spontaneously, they’re an industry. For-profit companies approach both schools and local law enforcement, setting up scenarios that are increasingly “realistic” in their depiction of carnage and fear. However, as a new report from Everytown for Gun Safety makes clear, these drills have a price tag that goes way beyond the billions these massacre simulation companies are raking in.
Active shooter drills are mandated by law in 40 states, but even where they’re not required, they’re common, in part because school boards local law enforcement are easily swayed to take part out of the pretense that this “improves school safety.” The report estimates that over 95% of American schools have implemented active shooter drills … right down to Kindergartens. School shootings are far too common, but they’re still a rare event. Active shooter drills are not. And they’re terrorizing millions of students across the country every year to no good end.
Both the NEA and Everytown emphasize the need for proactive school planning in the case of an actual shooting. Their set of recommendations is focused on informing teachers on the warnings signs of violence, providing teachers with a way to assets threats, and keeping guns out of schools in the first place (including by not following through on ridiculous schemes to arm teachers).
However, active shooter drills filled with simulated violence and very genuine fear are not part of that plan. Because analysis shows that these drills are generating a sense among students that it’s not a matter of “if” someone will come to their school and try to kill them, but only “when.” For high school students, the level of anxiety can be extreme. Younger students can feel that the entire school experience is pointless, as they genuinely never expect to live long enough to graduate. Students of all ages experience stress, hopelessness, depresion, and the same lingering anxiety as people who are involved in an actual shooting.
Analysis from Georgia Tech even shows that active shooter drills have a lasting physical impact. In the months following a drill, social media posts from students were more likely to indicate that they were sick, worried about their health, or taking medication. “The analysis revealed words like blood, pain, clinics, and pills came up with jarring frequency, suggesting that drills may have a direct impact on participants’ physical health or, at the very least, made it a persistent topic of concern.”
Children are definitely suffering, not just from real shootings, but from the play-acting that represents America’s refusal to take real action by limiting access to weapons of mass murder.